Nissan has completely redesigned the Altima, its long-popular midsized sedan, adding a number of major advancements that—on paper—bring it up to and beyond its competitors, including the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Subaru Outback, and Toyota Camry.

It will need these improvements to gain ground in its competitive—but declining—category. The car made its debut at the New York Auto Show this week.

This five-passenger midsized sedan slots in above the compact Sentra and below the Maxima large sedan in the Nissan car lineup. It is the automaker’s second-best-selling model, following the Rogue, though it trails the Accord and Camry in annual sales.

2019 Nissan Altima

What it competes with: Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry.

Powertrains: 188-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder; continuously variable transmission; front- or all-wheel drive (standard). 248-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder; CVT; front-wheel drive.

Expected price: $22,000 to $32,000.

On-sale date: Late 2018.

2019 Nissan Altima front

Inside

The interior is dominated by a standard 8-inch touch screen, which  includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities. Beyond the normal Bluetooth pairing, it brings Google Assistant/Siri Eyes Free voice-recognition services. Owners can remote lock or unlock the car and start or stop the engine with Android Wear and Apple Watch compatibility accessed through the NissanConnect Services App. Thankfully, Nissan included knobs for both volume control and audio tuning.

Sitting lower on the dash are the climate controls, which also use traditional buttons and knobs. Standard eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, standard 60/40-split folding rear seat, seat and steering wheel heating, leather seats and trim, and a power passenger seat are optional.

2019 Nissan Altima

What Drives It

One of the biggest changes for the Altima is the availability of all-wheel drive, which isn’t very common in this class. Called Intelligent All-Wheel Drive, the system can send 100 percent of the engine power to the front wheels or split it between the front and rear wheels, with up to 50 percent of power shifting to the back. Nissan expects a significant number of customers will equip their Altimas with all-wheel drive.

While front-wheel drive is standard, the AWD system will be available on all five trims when they are equipped with the 2.5-liter engine. This engine is all-new, and makes more power (188 hp vs. 179 hp) and torque (180 pound-feet vs. 177 pound-feet) than the previous-generation’s 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine.

A new 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, also available on the 2019 Infiniti QX50, makes its Nissan debut in the new Altima. It is rated at 248 hp and replaces the 3.5-liter V6 as the uplevel engine for the Altima. Nissan claims this system delivers the best of both worlds: six-cylinder performance with four-cylinder fuel economy. However, final mileage figures weren't made available at the Altima's introduction. All specifications are with premium fuel.

Both engines are coupled to a continuously variable transmission.

Safety & Driver-Assist Systems

The 2019 Altima will come equipped with standard forward-collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB). A pedestrian-detection system, rear cross-traffic warning, lane-departure warning, and rear automatic emergency braking are either optional, or standard on higher trim levels.

The SV, SL, and Platinum trims will also be available with Nissan’s ProPilot Assist driver assist system, which can govern speed according to traffic and steer the car during certain driving conditions, such as on a highway.  

CR’s Take

The inclusion of all-wheel drive is certainly Nissan’s way of attracting sales while also stemming the flow of customers away from the brand to competing compact SUVs. We enjoyed the power and smoothness of Nissan’s long-running 3.5-liter V6, but it is clear that the need for better fuel economy spelled its demise. The V6 and old four-cylinder engines had been passed by newer competitors in CR’s fuel-economy evaluations.

Ride quality and handling performance fell short in the last Altima we tested, so it will be interesting to see whether the redesign improves on those counts.

We applaud Nissan for making FCW and AEB standard. Some competitors have made it standard, and others make it available on a wide variety of trims.

We’ve experienced the available ProPilot Assist feature on the Nissan Leaf we’re testing and found it a convenience in stop-and-go traffic. However, the lane-departure warning feature is very unpleasant: As the car is about to cross a lane line, it issues a startling steering vibration and loud buzzing. It would be nice if Nissan dials this back in the Altima. 

2019 Nissan Altima


Check out CR’s complete 
coverage of the 2018 New York Auto Show.